As we celebrate International Cochlear Implant day, we take a closer look at the union between Phonak and Advanced Bionics, and the technology they provide to help people with hearing loss live a life without limitations.
Established in 1993 and based in Valencia, California, Advanced Bionics (AB), develops cochlear implant technology. In 2009, AB was acquired by Sonova Holding AG. This company was formerly known as Phonak prior to 2007. Phonak remains the brand name.
“Since then, AB and Phonak have been working together to combine the expertise that Phonak has in hearing aids with the CI expertise of AB to benefit patients with all degrees and types of hearing loss,” a Phonak spokesperson told HearingLikeMe. “This is especially relevant for those patients who do best with a hearing aid on one ear and a CI on the other.”
I have an Advanced Bionics cochlear implant in my left ear and wear a Phonak Naída on my right. I chose Advanced Bionics because I felt it boasted superior technology. I got my cochlear implant before my current hearing aid, so it was a no-brainer to go with Phonak. Honestly, it was the best hearing aid on the market for my hearing loss, with the power it offers, and knowing that it could potentially link to my cochlear implant was a plus.
Another benefit to this collaboration between Phonak and Advanced Bionics technology is that customers can stick with the same company if their hearing changes or they outgrow a hearing device.
For example, if hearing aids are no longer able to help a patient’s hearing loss, they can transition to a cochlear implant. Features and accessories they previously enjoyed from Phonak would be available through Advanced Bionics.
Whether you have Advanced Bionics or Phonak or both, there’s a rich community to discover. In addition to HearingLikeMe.com, which is sponsored by Phonak, there’s the Phonak hEARo program, and Advanced Bionics’ HearingJourney. These platforms and community groups give people with hearing loss the ability to connect with mentors and people they can relate to. Both brands are also active on social media.
Phonak and AB hearing devices connect to the same Roger technology, smartphones, wireless accessories, and apps. They also share a common fitting platform.
“All this makes for a smooth hearing journey for both the audiologist and the patient,” Phonak says.
The latest technology from Phonak and AB is innovative, which is what customers have come to expect from these companies. AB has released the Marvel CI product platform, which includes the Sky CI M, the first CI solution dedicated to children. It also includes the Naida CI M for adults, and Target CI, the integrated CI fitting software.
“Unlike other products on the market, both of the new Marvel sound processors can connect directly to virtually any Bluetooth-enabled device and Roger, without an intermediary accessory,” Phonak says. “And they support hands-free calling.”
A machine-learning algorithm analyzes the sounds in the listener’s environment every 0.4 seconds. It then engages the appropriate system features to customize and enhance the wearer’s listening experience, Phonak explains.
The Marvel is also more ergonomic. The batteries now curve around the ear, which provides a better, more secure fit. The headpiece is slimmer and 24.5 percent lighter than the previous iteration. Waterproof options also make it versatile. AB’s remote app is being offered for the first time. The app allows for convenient management and more control via a smartphone.
My insurance recently approved an upgrade for my CI processor. I have the Q90 and can’t wait to get the Marvel. The ergonomic fit appeals to me and I’m looking forward to the processor feeling less bulky. Being able to use Bluetooth without accessories is also exciting. Currently, I use my ComPilot when I want to watch a show without bothering family members, but it can be a hassle, and the blinking light drives me nuts!
Pauline Newton, a friend with hearing loss, has AB’s Naida Q90s, and even that technology holds up. When she chose her cochlear implant company, it was important to her that she hear at a range, she said. As a university professor, she has to hear students in the back of the classroom. She also likes that she can put either processor on and it will be programmed for the correct side. And she especially likes that she can charge four batteries at once!
People getting a cochlear implant for the first time will also benefit from AB’s HiRes Ultra 3D CI. Unlike other brands, its multi-magnet assembly makes it safe for MRIs. No preparation, surgery, or head bandaging are required.
The Sky CI M is the first cochlear implant specifically designed for children. With AutoSense Sky OS 3.0, the Sky CI Marvel automatically senses and adapts to every situation and it reduces unwanted background noise. A wide variety of wearing options, child-preferred colors, and waterproof accessories are available.
Additionally, integrated Roger technology helps children in learning and social environments. The design and sizing will be comfortable for children.
Read more: Deaf children now have a sound processor especially for them
One exciting thing about the Phonak and AB partnership is the benefit for people who are bimodal. In other words, people who have a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other. This describes about 80 percent of CI recipients, according to Phonak.
“This number is high because the benefits of bimodal fitting are well-established,” Phonak says. “AB has provided Phonak hearing aids to their recipients since the first Naída Link was made in 2016.”
The Phonak Sky Link Marvel (for children) and the new Naida Link Marvel can be worn together as hearing aids. Alternatively, they can be paired with an AB Sky CI Marvel or Naida CI Marvel sound processor.
“Because they are both based on Marvel technology, the cochlear implant sound processor and hearing aid are wirelessly connected and communicate with each other in a coordinated, dynamic way,” Phonak explains.
This seamless connectivity means that even though there are two separate devices, they work together as one. Sound quality is more consistent and resembles surround-sound. Both devices can be adjusted with a single control.
My current Phonak Naída won’t link with the Marvel, so I’m planning to get the Naída Link Marvel.
Cynthia Moynihan, however, had her cochlear implant surgery more recently – in 2019. Her CI and hearing aid were a package deal (another benefit of the partnership). She says she picked Advanced Bionics because of the technology. She finds it rewarding to utilize both devices and calls the new streaming options “wonderful.”
Phonak recently announced the Naida Paradise, a power hearing aid. It’s lighter and smaller than its predecessors and it promises to deliver powerful sound.
Read more: New Phonak Naida Paradise hearing aid has powerful technology
Amy Hochberg has been a Phonak user for 15 years, she says. She got her current Phonak Naída in 2017, after having two earlier models. She says her main criteria is that she has the strongest power aid on the market.
“Each version is more sensitive to details than the previous one, so I’ve discovered new sounds in recent years,” Hochberg says. “At the same time, it is designed to suppress excess sounds as selected in the programming – for me, those would be shrill sounds like sirens – to protect my residual hearing.”
Hearing aid accessories can enhance the listening experience for hearing aid and cochlear implant users. One of the most popular items is the RogerDirect. A single Roger microphone can transmit to the hearing aid and cochlear implant at the same time without the need for an external receiver.
Read more: Watch: How you can improve your communication with Phonak Roger
Of those who have hearing aids, only 5 to 7 percent go on to have cochlear implants, according to Phonak. There are AB CIs in nearly 100,000 ears in more than 130 countries.
Moynihan says her cochlear implant and hearing aids have changed her world in ways she never dreamed possible – and just in time for the pandemic.
“I have no idea what I would have done otherwise,” she says,. “Everyone wearing masks and the isolation would have been all that more challenging. My family and friends are more relaxed around me as they no longer have to work as hard to communicate, my work opportunities are expanding, and I am feeling more empowered than ever before.”
Lear more about the collaboration between Advanced Bionics and Phonak online, or by talk to an audiologist to determine how these solutions might help you or a loved one with hearing loss.